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How is artificial intelligence helping in PPE detection?

May 20, 2024
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Artificial intelligence is fundamentally altering our world, and safety is no exception to its influence. Countless AI-powered software solutions and platforms now have the capability to detect almost any safety hazard, including those resulting from the lack of proper PPE. Yet, safety professionals still often have to manually identify missing PPE across industries.

A closer look at OSHA’s ten most frequently cited safety violations reveals that four out of the ten are linked to a lack of PPE.

But what if there is a solution that could change the way we approach safety management?

In this blog post, we covered why organizations should harness the transformative capabilities of AI-powered safety management software to enhance PPE detection.

5 Key points to ensure the right PPE usage

OSHA underscores the significance of the right usage of PPE: missing PPE accounts for 12%–14% of work-related injuries leading to complete disability.

A primary reason for these injuries is that PPE use is often viewed only as a regulatory requirement rather than a proactive safety measure. To enhance workplace safety and address the root causes of safety risks, it is essential to prioritize engineering and administrative controls alongside selecting the appropriate PPE, identifying patterns of missing PPE and fostering a culture of safety among frontline teams.

Breaking the status quo in your safety management may initially be perceived as challenging, but it ultimately helps ensure PPE usage and proves to employees your commitment to their well-being. Let's delve into five key points to ensure the correct usage of PPE in your organization.

Engineering controls first, recovery measures last

Illustrating this concept through an imaginary scenario featuring our fictional EHS manager (let’s call him “Mark”) helps us better understand how to approach detecting PPE needs.

Mark placed engineering controls at the forefront of hazard mitigation, emphasizing proactive measures over reactive solutions. Instead of immediately relying on PPE, he meticulously examined ways to reduce risks within their operations.

Initially, Mark focused on redesigning the workplace environment to minimize hazards. He strategized layouts to segregate vehicle and pedestrian pathways, upgraded ventilation systems to combat airborne pollutants, and implemented machinery to streamline hazardous material handling.

However, recognizing the inevitability of residual risks, Mark assessed the necessity for PPE across different work zones. Rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach, he tailored solutions to meet the specific needs of each area.

For instance, in areas requiring prolonged mask usage, he adjusted work schedules to alleviate discomfort. Additionally, he identified varying levels of hearing protection required based on noise levels, ensuring that protection didn't compromise workers' auditory awareness in zones with vehicular activity.

Mark's approach didn't stop at mere identification; he fostered open dialogue with frontline staff to refine PPE protocols. By soliciting their input, he gained insights into practical challenges and devised innovative solutions. This collaborative effort resulted in optimized PPE storage and usage practices, as well as the introduction of alternative options for challenging scenarios.

Human-centric design is the key to PPE usage

Let's leave Mark behind with this successful operation and focus on addressing the actions needed for PPE detection one by one.

First things first, you can’t blame anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable with the improper fit PPE on their body. In the first stage, looking for products with more human-centric design features will increase PPE compliance within your facility. Brittany Cohen, product marketing manager at Magrid, emphasizes the importance of comfort alongside the training:

There are two important aspects to getting workers to wear PPE correctly – training and comfort. First, be sure they actually understand how to wear it and why it’s important. No gap between sleeves and gloves, hard hats ratcheted tight, safety glasses over the eyes (not at the top of the head), protective clothing properly zipped and tucked. You can get a lot of mileage out of simply explaining the points of vulnerability that your employees may not realize

Each component of PPE, from headgear to eyewear, body protection, and extremity coverings, should be tailored to suit your specific workplace and individual workers. Properly fitting PPE is individualized; there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Detect missing PPE pattern

EHS teams cannot be everywhere in the facilities at the right time; thus, detecting the missing PPE all the time is impossible. Also how can you be sure whether your employees don their hard hats or wear their gloves right before you come?

Bottom line, to understand why the employees don’t use PPE, you should conduct an in-depth analysis of the PPE usage pattern. Because there’s always a reason!

One of our customers in the textile industry had a high-risk forklift-pedestrian interaction because of the noisy environment. Employees can’t hear that forklifts are coming, driving them not wearing their hearing muffs.

Intenseye’s AI can be integrated with smart speakers that deliver instant audio and visual warnings in case of any hazard to prevent potential incidents. We integrated smart speakers into our customer’s facility to surpass the need for taking off the hearing muff and ensuring pedestrian safety while forklifts are in action. One AI-powered safety rule for two major risks!

This is a great example that shows you could only take action after detecting the missing PPE pattern, so the reason behind it. To do so, you should leverage AI-powered safety management technology that analyzes safety patterns, detects the safety risks and nonconformities and brings EHS teams tables comprehensive data on their leading safety indicators.

Lend an ear to the employee's voice

Maybe they’re not well aware of that fact, but your frontline teams have the best solutions for each risk as they experience, sense and are exposed to them. The problem is limited time, fatigue, and the feeling of pointlessness that can derail the team and drive them to maintain their daily habits.

Giving room to their thoughts, feelings and voices can build a shared safety culture which is the key point for eliminating risks. If an unsafe act & condition continuously arise in the same way within a facility, probably the reason behind it is a real need for the sake of the operation. Either because doing that operation in this particular way is more productive or way more time-saving.

Or it’s just because of maintaining the status quo which only sets more and more barriers to a real, modern and safer EHS mindset. Counting frontline employees to the safety processes makes you realize your engineering controls and safety prioritizations. The good point is it also makes them more engaged, conscious and proactive against unsafe acts & conditions.

Prove employees that you are breaking the status quo first

As human beings we generally don’t like obligations—- even if deep down inside we know that it’s for our own good, we tend to shrink away from the rules. The logic here is simple: Mandating makes us forget the inner reason behind the rules.

Of course it’s not all about wearing PPE properly, though it’s sina quo non to keep employees safe, it’s just a recovery measure, not the ultimate goal (Of course describing PPE as the “last resort” shouldn’t create complacency among employees. So it’s another point to watch for EHS teams)

For this very reason, fostering your organization's safety objectives, and engaging with the frontline step by step while implementing your safety program is key in your EHS operations.

Last but not least: Your employees need to see that you’re not confining your organization to traditional methods, don’t make PPE usage a taboo but consider it as part of your safety culture.

Ultimately, you’re modernizing your workplace safety conception, culture and operations. Reaching out this goal can be simple with technology and as Intenseye we stand for adopting the safety management software to your current safety needs.

Only this way can you break the status quo which will stir up your employees to be more proactive, step out of their safe zone (or comfort zone) for step forward to safer workplace zones.

Speaking of obligations… Let’s check OSHA’s PPE assessment requirements together!

What does OSHA require for PPE assessment?

OSHA requires employers to assess their work environments to eliminate safety hazards that require donning PPE.

This is more than just checking boxes. It involves identifying safety risks at work, such as machines, procedures, or hazardous materials, that could potentially harm employees.

Before reaching for the goggles and hard hats, though, there's a protocol to follow.

Employers should try other options before making decisions. They might tweak the machinery or alter the work environment, introducing engineering controls like ventilation systems or isolating processes to keep employees out of harm's way.

If that's not enough, they'll delve into work practice controls, like implementing job rotations or strict cleanliness protocols to minimize risks. But when push comes to shove, and PPE is deemed essential, it's not just a free-for-all. Employers need to consult OSHA standards for precise guidelines on what gear to use and how to use it.

Think safety glasses, face shields, gloves, and more—all carefully chosen to match the specific hazards at hand.

Crafting a robust PPE program isn't a one-off task; it's an ongoing commitment. Employers must meticulously follow a checklist, assessing hazards, determining the right PPE, training employees thoroughly on its use and maintenance, ensuring they understand the risks, enforcing proper usage, arranging for medical evaluations if needed, and periodically evaluating the program's effectiveness.

It's not just about equipping workers with PPE; it's about empowering them with knowledge and safety protocols to navigate potential hazards with confidence.

What are the steps for safeguarding employees?

In safeguarding employees, an essential initial stride involves conducting a comprehensive hazard assessment to pinpoint potential safety hazards to both physical well-being and health within the workplace. Then selecting the proper PPE and training employees are on the line.

Safety hazard assessment

Safety hazards span a spectrum, ranging from physical risks like moving machinery, varying temperatures, intense lighting, and sharp edges, to health hazards exposure to unsafe conditions.

The assessment commences with an examination of the premises to catalog hazards across various fundamental categories:

Risks of falls

Possibility of impact, penetration, or compression incidents

Exposure to chemicals, extreme temperatures, harmful dust, and light radiation

Potential biologic safety hazards

During this safety check, organizations should focus on finding things like electricity, moving parts, heat, chemicals, dust, bright lights, things that could fall, sharp objects, and germs. After checking everything, you need to organize and investigate the root causes of the safety risks.

This includes looking at any injuries or illnesses that have happened and figuring out if there are any trends we need to pay attention to.

A documented certification of the hazard assessment is a must, containing details such as the assessed workplace, the assessor's name, assessment date, and certification identification.

Selecting the proper PPE

All protective gear and clothing must be designed and made safely, kept clean, and in good condition. Employers should consider how well the gear fits and how comfortable it is when choosing what to provide. If the gear fits well and feels good, workers are more likely to use it.

It's important to pick the right size for each person, especially if different types of gear are worn together. If gear doesn't fit properly, it can leave workers at risk and might not give them enough protection.

According to OSHA, certain types of protective gear need to meet specific standards set by ANSI. These standards have been around since the 1920s and cover things like helmets and goggles. Employers who have to provide this gear make sure it meets these standards.

PPE training

Employers must provide training to employees who need to use protective equipment. This training should cover:

When the PPE is necessary.

What PPE is needed?

How to put on, take off, adjust, and wear the gear correctly.

The gear's limitations.

How to take care of, maintain, and dispose of the gear properly.

Employers need to ensure that each employee understands the training and can use the gear correctly before letting them work with it. If an employer sees that an employee needs help understanding or using the gear properly, they should provide additional training. Also, if there are changes in the workplace or the type of gear needed, employees might need to be trained again.

Detect PPE with AI

• Increased compliance: Intenseye’s AI-powered safety management software can ensure that employees are adhering to PPE requirements by detecting instances where PPE is not being worn properly or is missing altogether. This helps in increasing overall compliance with safety regulations and standards.

• Real-time analysis: The software can provide real-time analysis of PPE usage, allowing supervisors to address any non-compliance issues and take corrective actions immediately.

• Data analysis: AI-powered safety management software can analyze data over time to identify trends and patterns in PPE usage. This can help in determining areas where additional focus may be needed to improve compliance and safety standards.

• Cost savings: By reducing the likelihood of workplace accidents and injuries through better PPE detection, EHS management software can lead to cost savings for organizations by minimizing workers' compensation claims, medical expenses, and downtime due to injuries.

• Documentation and reporting: Intenseye can automatically generate reports and documentation regarding PPE usage and compliance, which can be useful for regulatory compliance purposes, audits, and internal reviews.

If you want to learn more about how Intenseye uses artificial intelligence to detect missing PPE, schedule a demo with us!